How to cut a circle in wood with a drill?

There are many reasons you may have to cut holes into wood ranging from running wires through a stud, adding a bar to a space to hang a shelf or clothes, or adding a doorknob onto a door. Whatever the reason for needing a hole, there are quite a few different ways of getting that accomplished.

When it comes to drilling a hole, especially large diameter holes, it can often be quite tricky if you don’t have the right tools available. To drill holes into wood you’ll need to either a power drill/cordless drill or a hole saw.

I’ll review all of the different ways you can drill into wood using different bits here so you’re well equipped with the knowledge to do so when needed.

Spade Bits

One of the most common ways to drill into wood is by using flat spade drill bits which are commonly known as paddle bits as well. You can find them at almost all hardware stores and they are used mostly by electricians and plumbers to drill holes into studs when they want to run wires through the wall or plumbing holes for small pipes to run through.

The way a spade bit works is it’s a flat and wide bit on a long handle with a sharp point at the tip. The outer edges of a spade bit are typically sharpened to ensure they can properly cut through the wood.

Before you drill using a spade bit, ensure a secondary scrap piece of wood is put in place to prevent the hole from blowing out the other end making a big mess of the outside end of the hole.

To use a spade bit just locate the area you want to drill the hole through and place the point of the spade in that area. When you drill into the wood, make sure to do so with the drill straight-on to the wood and not at an angle. This is important so your hole is properly made.

As you drill through with the spade bit, ensure that you do so gently while increasing the speed as the tip goes in further. If the drill bogs down too much, make sure to pull it out and clean any debris from the hole and start again.

Hole Saw

While spade bits are the best tool for drilling holes, the largest spade bit is around 1 ¼ inch in diameter for electrical purposes. But when you need a larger hole for plumbing purposes, a hole saw can often do the job.

While a hole saw sounds like a separate piece of equipment, it’s actually a circular saw that attaches to a bit that goes in your drill. Most drills work great for this except some cheaper cordless drills. If you have a cordless drill it should have variable speeds and have 18 volts of power or higher.

How to drill using a hole saw

To drill using a hole saw you need to first drill a 1/8 hole at the center of the hole you’re looking to drill. Drill it straight and completely through the piece of wood. This is called the pilot hole and is where the center bit of your hole saw will go. This will guide the hole saw on where to go when drilling through the piece of wood.

Insert your hole saw bit into the pilot hole and ensure to drill into the wood directly without any angle. You’ll need to grip the drill firmly (If your drill has a handle, that is extremely helpful) and run the drill slowly at first and gradually increasing the speed while putting pressure down. Occasionally back out the drill to clear out any sawdust and let the hole saw cool.

Only drill halfway through on the first side and then switch to the other side doing the same process until you have drilled out the circle completely. It’s important that you do it only halfway and then enter from the opposite side again as if you drilled completely on one side only it will be difficult to take out the piece of wood and the exiting side will have very rough edges and may splinter the wood going out.

Here’s how to operate a hole saw:

Tips using a hole saw:

  • Drilling through metal is a very similar process, however, you will go at a very slow speed and will need to have the proper type of hole saw for use on metals.
  • If you have a very thick piece of wood and you’re drilling with a hole saw, you’ll only be able to go in the depth of the hole saw and then chisel out the wood from the inside of the hole. Once you’ve removed the wood from the hole, you can insert the hole saw and drill down again repeating this the entire way until you’ve completely drilled through the wood.
  • Hole saws can be quite dangerous so be sure to always have your piece of wood clamped down. When drilling with your hole saw if you hit a nail or even tilt the hole saw it can often cause the bit to snag and twist the whole drill which can cause the drill or bit to be flung towards you. Be sure to always keep a very firm grip on the drill when using a hole saw.

Best Drills, Spade Bits, and Hole Saws

There are lots of equipment on the market, so I wanted to give you my suggested pieces of each of these that you can use when drilling holes:

  • Best Drill: DEWALT DWD112 8.0 Amp 3/8-Inch VSR Pistol-Grip Drill with Keyless All-Metal Chuck
  • Spade Bit: DEWALT DW1587 6 Bit 3/8-Inch to 1-Inch Spade Drill Bit Set
  • Hole Saw: DEWALT D180002 Standard Electricians Bi-Metal Hole Saw Kit

Remember to always use safety when handling power tools and drilling.

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